March 16, 2021
‘Food can empower people’ – A Q&A with our in-house dietitian, Catherine Chong
Celebrated annually in March, National Nutrition Month invites everyone to learn about making informed food choices and developing healthful eating and physical activity habits.
To learn more about dietetics and the multi-faceted role nutrition teams play in acute care settings, we recently spoke with Catherine Chong, our in-house dietitian and Clinical Advisor for HealthPRO’s Nutrition and Food Services team.
Q: Why did you decide to become a Dietitian?
A: As cliché as it may sound, for as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a strong passion for nutrition. At a very young age I became conscious of how food can impact your health. Even now, I’m fascinated by how food can empower people to live healthier lives.
Q: How are Nutrition teams involved in patient care?
A: I think there’s a misconception that Nutrition and Food Services are one and the same in a hospital or acute care setting.
Nutrition teams, while often integrated with Food Services, perform multiple distinct functions related to patient care. This includes identifying high-risk patients, conducting patient nutritional assessments, managing electrolyte replacement and bowel function, providing ongoing monitoring and much more. In fact, in addition to dietitians, a nutrition team may also include nurses, pharmacists, and physicians.
Food Services, however, focuses more on a patient’s dietary needs when receiving care. From my experience in acute and long-term care, I’ve observed that patients often look-forward to mealtimes, so there’s a social and emotional aspect to this function as well.
Despite the professionals involved, or its relation to Food Services, in most settings the goal remains the same: to provide the right type of food and diet to reinforce positive outcomes.
Two members of our Nutrition and Food Services team – Catherine Chong, Clinical Advisor and Elizebeth Abdul, Category Lead
Q: How does HealthPRO help its members advance nutrition and food services in their facilities?
A: We help members navigate a very volatile market. Food prices can fluctuate daily and are often going up. In this regard, one of our primary goals when developing a contract is to provide pricing stability so our members can confidently manage their food budgets.
Additionally, our team helps deliver adaptable contracts that help alleviate a myriad of our members’ challenges. For hospital nutrition teams in particular, this may involve looking at food menus or focusing on advancing patient-centred food and dietetics needs. For instance, Nova Scotia Health Authority recently implemented a room service model in their facilities which gives patients more choice and flexibility when it comes to their food and nutrition needs.
Q: Overall, regarding nutrition and food services, what’s the biggest value that HealthPRO provides its members?
A: Aside from the significant savings on products and services that our contracts offer, HealthPRO truly advocates for our members and their needs.
For instance, in the past, suppliers didn’t have a standardized system to measure food texture or beverage thickness. This meant that flow and textural characteristics could vary greatly from supplier to supplier. This posed a challenge to our members when they treated patients with dysphagia or other conditions that require modifications to their food texture and beverage thickness.
To help alleviate this challenge, starting in 2018, based on the feedback from our Nutrition and Food Service Advisory Committee, HealthPRO advocated for suppliers to implement the International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative (IDDSI) framework for describing food textures and drink thickness.
Q: This nutrition month, what’s one thing you want everyone to know about nutrition?
A: There’s no one size fits all approach to healthy eating!
Culture, food traditions, personal circumstances and nutritional needs all contribute to what healthy eating looks like for you.